Let’s face it: nobody wakes up in the morning and says ‘I hope I get to take a survey today!’
Why? Because we usually don’t get immediate returns on our time investment. The researcher collects the data and reviews findings. Sometimes they’re never published, and usually never shared directly with each survey respondent. What’s more, we are bombarded with requests for our opinion all the time. We’re asked to take surveys on the back of the receipt at the grocery store, on airplanes, after an online banking session—just about everywhere. With so many requests and so little satisfaction yielded by each experience, why bother?
Indeed, this phenomenon is well-documented and has a name. It’s called satisficing. You need to understand satisficing so you know how to avoid it in your own surveys. So let’s first describe its opposite, desired, behavior—optimizing. When optimizing, survey respondents fully engage in four steps:
- interpreting the question
- searching memory for relevant information
- integrating information into summary judgment, and
- reporting judgment
Whenever a person engages in steps 2 or 3 half-heartedly, they’re called weak satisficers. Skipping either steps 2 or 3 is a feature of strong satisficers.
So far I’ve painted a picture that might suggest we find out which of our respondents are “good” or “bad” and act accordingly. However, that approach would be unfair and ineffective. Why? Because researchers can easily turn perfectly willing optimizers into satisficers simply by designing bad questionnaires.
Consider that a cliffhanger. Next time we’ll find out exactly how researchers compromise their data by creating bad questions and inducing satisficing behavior. And best of all, you’ll learn how you can avoid those bad questions.
Same methodology channel, same methodology time…